A Few Tips From My Travels
Updated: Aug 18, 2021
It was just a few weeks ago that I had written an entirely different blog post.
That piece, in late July, waxed poetic about the potential for business travel to soon return to normal. I shared my delight following a 13-country, six-week sojourn earlier this summer; at meeting people in person for the first time since the pandemic began; of chance encounters that led to new business potential, and my desire, when I returned, to get the suit cleaned and get back on the road again -- quickly.
Those of us who love business travel know that feeling. We were optimistic that business travel would, once again, be on our plates -- and soon. You couldn’t have blamed us: at that point, the COVID-19 Delta variant was not yet the deadly threat it has become.
August brought with it warnings from low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines that it was adjusting its third quarter projections downward. Other travel companies -- hotels, AirBNB, cruise lines, etc. -- also began casting doubt on short-term travel trends. Countries and cities began re-imposing COVID mitigation rules as a response to the Delta variant.
So in a matter of weeks, we in the travel and hospitality sector are back to asking, “What now? What’s next?”
This was not a promising turn for a sector that had suffered pandemic-related revenue plunges of 71 percent domestically and 52 percent globally in 2020. Most travel companies and analysts were predicting the beginning of business travel recovery as soon as 3Q21. It appears , however, that we may be waiting well into 2022, perhaps 2023, with some predicting “full recovery” as late as 2025.
That said, travel is still possible. And for those willing to brave it, let me share a few tips from my travels, in June and July, to destinations in Europe, Asia and Africa:
Planning -- and travel itself -- is a little more complicated but still definitely doable. If your company has a travel department or travel advisor, they should know about COVID restrictions or requirements in the country or countries you’re traveling to. Some countries aren’t letting U.S. citizens in. Some require proof of a negative COVID test within very specific time frames before you arrive. Others may require you to quarantine. Different countries -- and regions within countries -- have different masking requirements, curfews or bans on travel to certain areas. And given the complications of the rapidly spreading Delta COVID variant, the rules and restrictions can change on a dime.
If you don’t have a travel advisor, the U.S. State Department website is a good place to start. It has a list of countries and their COVID protocols and it is very easy to use.
Another useful resource is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.
Once you’re traveling, ask locals and other travelers for their advice and recent experience.
Pack several styles of masks, and check whether or not you need a face shield.
I spent a little bit too much quality time with a check-in agent in Moldova who advised I was wearing the wrong mask but was kind enough to show me a placard of acceptable masks and ferret through my stash to deem one that was appropriate. Once we cleared that up, which took some time, I beelined through security and immigration so as not to miss the flight. On the next trip, I’ll pack an N95 and an assortment of other mask styles just to be safe.
Also note: some countries or airlines may require face shields in addition to masks.
Get your jab(s), or check the CDC website about traveling unvaccinated.
If you are vaccinated, take your proof-of-vaccination card with you, although I was not asked to show my card during the entire trip.
If you have CLEAR, their app can scan your CDC vaccination card and create a QR code useful for immigration or at airline check-in.
If you are vaccinated, a wealth of data indicates that you are still able to test positive for COVID and very likely to transmit it. Fortunately, that data also shows that COVID cases are less problematic in vaccinated people. You can, however, get other people sick.
If you are unvaccinated, seriously consider getting the shot. Data confirms that unvaccinated people are more likely to get seriously ill, or die, from the Delta variant.
Arrange for COVID testing in each country you’re visiting.
Many countries, including the U.S., require proof of a negative test within 72 hours of your travel. More hotels are offering on-site PCR testing, or they know where you can get one. Not staying at a hotel? Ask your BNB host or even your Uber/private car service driver. I was able to find tests very easily in every location. Costs ranged from $40 to $80 U.S. but can be higher.
Consider alternatives to air travel.
On several occasions I booked long car rides via a car service when air travel was unavailable (there is, for example, no flight from Macedonia to Bulgaria) or when I just wanted to see more of the countryside. Those were, generally, the most enjoyable and interesting trips, although do be mindful of COVID protocols in such a closed space and that land border crossings may have different requirements to airports.
Those are my top five. I may have more when I get back in the air in the weeks and months ahead. And I’m very interested in the views and experiences from other business travelers. Please leave your best travel tips and advice in the comments and I wish you all safe travels.